006: The X Factor

Uncommon Sense: the This is True Podcast show

Summary: In This Episode: How two men 70 years apart inspired others to change the world in a massive display of Uncommon Sense. It’s a story about how someone figured out a way to get people to push forward, to think hard, and to solve real problems. I call it: The X Factor.<br> <br> <a class="twitter-share-button" href="https://twitter.com/share?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Tweet</a><br> <a href="#transcript">Jump to Transcript</a><br> <a href="https://thisistrue.com/category/podcasts/">How to Subscribe and List of All Episodes</a><br> Show Notes<br> <br> * An article about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansari_X_Prize">the first X Prize</a>.<br> * The XPrize Foundation <a href="https://www.xprize.org">web site</a>.<br> * Recent article about the water machine (pictured below): <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90253718/a-device-that-can-pull-drinking-water-from-the-air-just-won-the-latest-x-prize">Fast Company</a>.<br> * And: see below for a photo of Orteig and Lindbergh, and SpaceShipOne.<br> <br> <a name="transcript"></a><br> Transcript<br> The more common sense in the world, the more chances we have to see Uncommon Sense — which is to say, common sense taken to the next level. I’ll talk in later episodes how the common people (you know, like us!) can develop our own common sense, and maybe even achieve Uncommon Sense. This episode, meanwhile, is a story about how someone figured out a way to get people to push forward, to think hard, and to solve real problems. I call it: The X Factor.<br> I’m Randy Cassingham, welcome to Uncommon Sense.<br> Raymond Orteig was born in France, and in 1882, at age 12, he emigrated to the United States — alone! He had an uncle here, in New York City, and the boy, who arrived with his life savings of 13 Francs, went right to work, getting a job as a bar porter at a restaurant. He later moved up to waiter, and then maitre’d at a hotel. By the time Orteig was 22, he was well established as a hard-working immigrant versed in good customer service, and was saving much of his earnings. In fact by then he had saved so much that when the owner of the hotel told Orteig he was selling and moving on, Orteig bought the place. He renamed it the Hotel Lafayette — hey, I said he was French! — and, with a partner, even leased a second hotel to start building his business even faster.<br> During World War I, the Lafayette was a favorite hangout for airmen — especially French officers who were stationed in the city to work with their American allies. As Orteig grew wealthy, his philanthropic activities in New York made him a leading citizen of the city. His home country even recognized his leadership by making him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.<br> Shortly after the war, the Aero Club of America hosted American flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker for a speech in New York City. Orteig, having quite an interest in aeronautics from spending time with airmen in his hotel, attended. He was quite inspired by Rickenbacher’s speech, in part because he promoted friendship between America and France, and the Ace said he looked forward to something that seemed almost impossible at the time: the day when airplanes could link America and France. It was 1919, and the airplanes of the time couldn’t possibly cross the Atlantic and make it such a distance!<br> And that’s what gave Orteig a great idea: a way to inspire progress in aeronautics. Orteig wrote to the Aero Club of America in May 1919 with a fabulous offer. He wrote:<br> Gentlemen: As a stimulus to the courageous aviators, I desire to offer, through the auspices and regulations of the Aero Club of America, a prize of $25,